There’s been some chat about relative ages on Twitter, so here’s next in my ongoing series of interviews. This was conducted when Sue brought out Making Marks (circa 2010).
Sue Timney, Designer/Artist
B: 9 July, 1950
Age inside: Around 27
It’s a big feeling I have. I don’t know what it is, I just know. I hadn’t even had all of my four children by then, I had the last one when I was 36, so it’s not to do with that.
It is to do with knowing who I was, and by then I knew. I got married for the first time at 18. I certainly didn’t know who I was then, just who I might like to be. By 27 I kind of knew. I was at the Royal College. I was very focussed on my course in life. Whatever else has happened, marriages, divorces, moving, ups and downs with business, that same person has been there. The two sides of me have been there for each other.
It had to do with confidence and knowingness. I don’t know if I’m an artist. I don’t know what I am really. I’m a between person, in a good way. I don’t feel negative about not necessarily being a designer designer, or an artist artist. I feel comfortable between the two. I trained as a fine artist originally, and was still coming to terms with the idea that I didn’t know if I was a good person, because I wasn’t a fine artist. The idea is that it’s the top of any kind of creative force, and to be a designer is definitely second rate. I had those worries about myself. And then I came to terms with it. It doesn’t matter, because I know what I want to do, and it’s up to other people to decide what it is.
I don’t feel I’ve ever been a grown up, though as a child, I knew I was more grown up than the people around me. I may not have done as well as anybody at school, but I knew they were all idiots. I knew that. I knew that people were actually stupid, even though they might pass exams. It sounds very pompous, but it’s absolutely true. You know an idiot when you see one. Maybe I didn’t feel more grown up than anyone else, but I felt sharper. I knew more about something — about a look or a way to behave, a way of thinking. Knowing one and one are two isn’t really the answer.
Nor did I want to be a grown up — that’s never come into it. From very early on I was aware of people who got stuck in grooves in their head. Before I could even work out how I should look or dress, I knew that I was a lateral thinker, and that the people who thought in grooves would never develop anything. I’m talking in creative terms, not intellectual terms, though the two do overlap.
When you meet someone who is a soulmate and inspirational as well, you never forgot that experience. It became part of this layering up of the strength I was gaining, the armour I was taking into my war chest. It became stronger and stronger because of this support. These people helped manifest my internal thoughts, making me more confident, stronger. And that was the sort of constant in play when I was 27.
Before then, I wasn’t confident. As a child I was very shy and unsure of myself. Part of it was moving around and being unused to new situations. I wasn’t sure of who I was. Home life wasn’t that easy. I was the oldest so I helped my dad look after the family. He was wonderful, and I can’t complain, but when you’re not sure what’s happening at home. . .
Everyone has problems. I never felt I had an awful family life. There’s not one typical family. It doesn’t have to make you weaker. You can build on it and think, “Well, I got through that, so absolutely anything else is going to be easier and I’ll get through it.” We all focus too much on the negative side of life. You don’t have to be like that at all.
Of course when I look in the mirror now I think, “Who is that?” It’s horrible. Then, I’ve never thought I was gorgeous at any age, actually. I’m glad I was never a beauty. I think handsome would be nice, but interesting is the best; you can still be that person until the day you die. Of course looking in the mirror is a surprising reminder, but on the other hand, if you don’t look, you can forget that pretty quickly and go back to any other age.
For those unfamiliar with Timmy’s amazing work, and her huge contribution to British design, start with http://www.suetimney.com, and for what it’s worth (they’re not always accurate), here is a link to her Wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sue_Timney; and of course